Archives for the Month of June 2008 on Through the Magnifying Glass

RIP: George Carlin, aged 71

Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs, dirty words and the demise of humanity, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital on Sunday. He was 71.

Carlin, who had a history of heart and drug-dependency problems, died at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica about 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT) after being admitted earlier in the afternoon for chest pains, spokesman Jeff Abraham told Reuters.

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One of the very few comics that basically did a lot of straight-talk about the demise of humanity and corruption-ridden society.

He will be missed very badly.

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What's this deal about spoilers for the election?

In 2000, Democrats blamed Green Party candidate Ralph Nader for playing spoiler to the presidential election between former Vice President Al Gore and President Bush, and his part in siphoning votes from the Florida tally.

For the 2008 presidential election, GOP insiders are worried that former congressman Bob Barr may play the spoiler between Senator McCain and Barack Obama. Barr's Libertarian Party may be indeed a long shot for the American presidency but political experts believe that some die-hard conservatives who still feel about McCain's credentials may choose to vote for the independent candidate in protest.

Dan Schnur, GOP consultant called Bob "the Ralph Nader of 2008." Of course, Ralph Nader is running again for the presidency but as an independent.

Due to the tight race between McCain and Obama, third-party candidates may prove the difference in deciding which major party will win the election.

However, both major parties regard these third-parties as spoilers and a waste of people's votes. This is what I take offense to.

I am also displeased to see how some state Republican parties are trying to prohibit Barr's Libertarian Party from appearing on the election ballot. Of course, the Democrats have done the same thing to Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004. Currently, the Libertarian Party is already on the ballot in 30 states, with petition drives this summer aiming at 20 others.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said voting for Barr is the same as voting for Democrat Barack Obama. I really wish I can see a campaign ad where the voter has to choose the lesser of two evils: the Democrats or the Republicans. Gingrich seems intent on brainwashing the public into ignoring third-party candidates because they have no influence, but if voters give those parties a chance, they can make a better difference than what our two major parties have done in the past several decades.

Do not blame us for voting third-party. If Obama or McCain lost the election, it is because their message and vision did not resonate with the majority of our American voters.

I really think the GOP party has lost its way. Die-hard and fiscal conservatives should vote for Bob Barr or even write-in Ron Paul just to give the party a message. Its neo-con agenda cannot be the way of the Republican Party.

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US Airways to charge for soda/juice, drop bonus miles

This is another reason why US Airways will be the first airline to go bankrupt or suffer customer anger.

After following American Airlines in charging money for your first checked bags, it has announced that effective August 18, US Airways will charge $2 for soda, fruit juice, coffee, and bottled water.

Also, alcoholic drinks will go from $5 to $7.

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In addition, the airline will eliminate a standard feature included in almost every frequent flyer elite program. Beginning August 6, US Airways Preferred Members will no longer earn extra miles when flying on the airline or any of their partners.

Their statement:

"Miles issued through the Dividend Miles program represent a real and significant economic cost. Each mile that is issued can result in the loss of revenue for the company. By reducing the number of bonus miles issued, US Airways is in a better position to withstand the impact of record fuel prices."

Plus they tacked on an additional $25/35/50 award ticket processing fee for flights booked on or after August 6.

EU to lift sanctions on Cuba.... hint hint US!

Members of the European Union decided Thursday to formally lift sanctions on Cuba, a spokeswoman for EU Secretary-General Javier Solana told CNN.

Christina Gallach said the decision, made over dinner during the first day of a planned two-day summit in Brussels, Belgium, will be formally confirmed on Monday during an EU council meeting.

The diplomatic sanctions, which limited visits to the Communist island by senior EU personnel, were imposed in 2003 after concerns were raised about human rights in Cuba. The sanctions were suspended in 2005, so lifting them now could be considered a symbolic move.

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The US embargo will soon reach 50 years. Have we finally seen the light? Perhaps we should follow our previous examples with Vietnam, China, and South Africa and lift economic sanctions.

All we get is Fidel's laugh having survived Kennedy though Bush.

Isn't it time to try something new?

Ross Perot: Focus on National Debt!

Ross Perot is jumping back into the political fray -- this time with a stern warning that the country better start paying attention to the national debt.

The former presidential candidate has reemerged with a new Web site spotlighting the soaring budget deficit -- more than $9.3 trillion and growing.

"We live in the greatest country in the history of man. We've been so successful for so long that we now take our success for granted," Perot says in a video posted on PerotCharts.com.

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David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general and nation's top accountant, consulted with Perot on the need to cut spending in Washington.

deficit.jpg

While we may seem to be mesmerized with Obama's call for change, and McCain's Straight Talk, both candidate fail to list solutions for combating our national deficit and debt.

Of course both candidates would submit budget plans to cut or eliminate our deficit, neither one wants to tell the American public about the huge NATIONAL DEBT that we have.

As of 6/18/2008, the total national debt is $9.392 trillion. (link)

Within the next decade or so, it will no longer be Democrats versus Republicans. The demographics with regards to the federal budget and spending will divide between the young and old. Could the AARP and legions of senior citizens vote to keep Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security alive at the expense of federal domestic programs and higher taxes on the young and working class?

Can tax cuts bring more growth in the long run? Or what if tax cuts are not enough? Should there be some tax increases on certain groups? Should we focus more on accountability and spending cuts? But then we have to make sure there is oversight on agencies and departments doing competitive pricing. Or is it too late?

Airplane Pilot Shares His Thoughts

From Reader's Digest.com:

Pilot Patrick Smith explains why the airline industry is on overload--and how you can make flying a little friendlier (link)

Kentucky GOP stops RP supporters

Supporters of presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) saw all of their efforts to influence the outcome of the Kentucky Republican convention thwarted during a noisy procedural stand-off with party leadership on the floor of Saturday's event. Amid shouting and unrestrained debate, Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Steve Robertson pushed through votes on convention rules, resolutions, and delegate slates while dissenting Paul supporters vocally argued parliamentary procedure was being bypassed.

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Ron Paul at Future of Freedom Foundation

Playlist of the full video (5 parts)

Courtesy of C-SPAN

Ron Paul upsets Neil Cavuto on Fox Business

Arizona opts out of Real ID!

Good news! The Arizona Legislature is sending Gov. Janet Napolitano a bill barring the state from participating in new federal security standards for driver's licenses.

Real ID faces criticism because of the federal mandate, costs to states and privacy concerns. The Bush administration says the law will hinder terrorists, illegal immigrants and other wrongdoers.

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Was Bush wrong to issue Medal of Freedom to Donna Shalala?

The White House announced today that six individuals will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.

One of these individuals is Donna E. Shalala, a former president of Hunter College and current president of the University of Miami in Florida who was secretary of health and human services under President Bill Clinton. (NY Times)

(Of course, the NY Times is incorrect about the Hunter College fact)

She was also former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

However, according to the Democracy Project, Donna Shalala does not deserve this award. It is also puzzled why the Bush White House would choose to select her in the first place.

Shalala was the architect of the infamous speech code at Wisconsin which, before it was declared unconstitutional in 1991, was among the most draconian in the nation. She was even declared the "Queen of PC" by education expert Checker Finn.

It has been argued by her supporters that the speech codes was adopted by the university's Board of Regents, and that Shalala was opposed to anything that interfered with the free exchange of speech. Of course, she did not publicly oppose the speech code which was considered unconstitutional.

She also crafted the "Madison Plan" at UW, through which she mandated quotas for hiring minority professors, doubling the number of minority undergraduates, passed an ethnic studies requirement, and opened a multicultural center.

Even at the University of Miami, her administration has worked to clamp down on dissent -- in particular, conservative student groups. She used her influence as President to skew the recognition policy in the Committee on Student Organizations to suppress free speech for the sake of political correctness and liberal thought.

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It seems she has been politically adept in creating a consensus throughout her career, yet her authoritarian management policy has created an atmosphere of peer pressure designed to ensure conformity with her views. Yes, she will advocate diversity, exchange of different viewpoints, but ultimately, she will agree with you if only you agree with her views and conclusions.


Price is Right - douchebag

Bob Parker should just not give him the prize, then have security kicked him out of the building.

$23 Billion Lost

BBC investigation estimates that around $23 billion may have been lost, stolen, or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

It is always interesting to find how external news organizations are finding out about this before our American counterparts. Of course, efforts to seek out more about financial mismanagement have been gagged by the U.S. government.

Currently, there is a gag order to about 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

Is this justified because there is a war on terror? What if $100 billion was missing? Or even $200 billion? Can the government justify these losses for the sake of protecting Americans from terrorists?

While I can understand that lawsuits may be ill-timed if there were continuing war operations or the country has not been effectively stable, but after 4-5 years, it is time to really see if money has been spent legally and to take action if there is any mismanagement.

With President Bush still in power, effective action against US contractors is still being blocked.

China's censors ban Time Out magazine

Beijing has declared time out on Time Out. The English-language edition of the monthly magazine that gives foreign residents and visitors the latest lowdown on the coolest bars, the hippest shops and the hottest shows in the Chinese capital has disappeared.

The June issue of Time Out Beijing has been banned from distribution by China's censors, The Times has learnt. But the decision seems to have been taken not because of any racy or politically incorrect content. Time Out Beijing has fallen victim to the accelerating imposition of restrictions on any aspect of life in the capital deemed to pose a potential threat to a smooth Olympics.

WTF?

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China: World is watching

china_world_is_watching.jpg

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I'm Voting Republican (YouTube)

Priceless!

Ron Paul plans his own convention in Minneapolis

Maverick GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul has booked an arena in Minneapolis for a "mini-convention" that could steal some of John McCain's thunder just days before he accepts the Republican nomination.

Jerry Shuster, a political communications expert at the University of Pittsburgh, said Paul's timing for the event is likely to put him in a media spotlight during at least one day of the convention.

Link

Fox News' America's Pulse E.D. Hill jabs herself

While it has been amusing to see the MSM get so fascinated with the Michelle and Barack Obama fist bump, a slip of the tongue by Fox News' America's Pulse host E.D. Hill was either unintentional or his brain was tased at the worst possible way.

During the June 6 edition of Fox News' America's Pulse, host E.D. Hill teased an upcoming discussion by saying, "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently."

It's likely that he just said that just to put an extreme example of why folks do a fist bump. Of course, most folks would point out that because of confusion of whether Obama is a Christian or Muslim, or that folks would mistake Obama with Osama, someone with ill-will may choose to associate his actions with terrorism.

From another viewpoint, why would the host choose to say "terrorist fist jab?" We probably have not seen any photos or footage of terrorist individuals or groups practicing the so-called fist bump. This could have been a cheapshot aimed to insult the Obamas.

Of course, I do have to point out that in the ensuing discussion with her guest, Janine Driver -- a "body language expert," there was no further mention about Hill's terrorist words. Perhaps the producers in the back studio took quick action right after she uttered those words, and told her (via earpiece) not to say anything more about it.

Not sure if Janine Driver was also told the same thing (via earpiece).

I'm sure bloggers from the conservative side may argue that it was just words in jest, or just a poor example made by Hill.

Liberal bloggers may see it differently because of Fox News' history of favoring the conservative viewpoint and they think Hill's words were sanctioned by the network or other high-placed individuals.

Media Matters has issued a call to action on this.

Huffington Post

In any case, the fist bump is NOT a terrorist fist jab.

American tourists: bad image abroad?

Jacinta O'Halloran reports on American tourists getting a bit rude and ugly abroad

Japanese parents taking a page from Americans and more?

Across Japan teachers are reporting an astonishing change in the character of parents, who, after decades of respectful silence, have become a super-aggressive army of complainers. The problem is that nobody can decide whether this is a good thing or not. Japan's mass media has opted to demonise them: a lavish television drama starting next month will present the monster parents as a vile symptom of a society that has lost all respect for its traditions and decorum.

The parents believe that they are champions of basic consumer rights, rights that Japanese society has supposedly long trampled over in the name of conformity and order. Either way, few deny that mothers and fathers have shifted from being staunch supporters of Japan's rigid education system to its most ardent assailants. Previously, when a child was in trouble the parents apologised profusely to the teacher; nowadays, they try to have the teacher sacked.

Where previously schools were trusted and respected, they are now the targets of concerted activism. Dozens of educators have been forced to resign in the face of the blazing fury of parents who no longer tolerate anything that appears to disadvantage their offspring.

Read more (Times Online UK)

Woman employs wrong strategy in Price is Right

I feel so sorry for the woman, NOT!

Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

Independent UK reports a secret plan (military alliance) that would subvert Iraqi sovereignty in order to keep the American military in Iraq indefinitely

Red Light Cameras - Trolling for Trouble

NYT Article shows the flaws in our red light cameras

Be sure to check to see if red light cameras in your area are tinkering with the duration of the yellow lights. Generally, it should be 3 seconds. Companies installing the red light cameras have been found trying to decrease the time in order to generate more revenues for the camera operator and the municipality.

For example, in Charlotte, NC, the number of accidents at intersections has gone down less than one percent. The number of rear-end accidents has gone up 15 percent.

10 Most Worthless College Majors

Holy Taco gives his take on the 10 Most Worthless College Majors

NJ voters pick the usual suspects for U.S. Senate

As such, we decided to pick the status quo...

Frank Lautenberg, the incumbent, garnered 61 percent versus U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews who had 34 percent (with 91 percent of the vote counted).

His opponent would be former lobbyist and Representative Dick Zimmer who defeated state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio and Ramapo College professor Murray Sabrin. Zimmer had 46 percent, Pennacchio got 39 percent, and Sabrin got 15 percent (with 90 percent of the vote counted).

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Obama should not pick Hillary as his VP

An Obama-Hillary ticket would not be in the best interests of the Democratic Party nor will it give them any substantial advantage in the race against McCain.

The Obama campaign has been advocating 'Change', a chance to reform the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. Selecting Clinton as his VP would be an attack on that 'Change'.

Would it really unite the Democrats? Right now, from seeing the media clips, news articles, and what not, Hillary is not being quite gracious to bowing out of the race. True, she has been mathematically eliminated from clinching the Democratic nomination, but she has been reluctant to make any official announcement about conceding the race to Obama or suspending her campaign.

Could all of this be considered as pressure on Obama to pick her as his Vice President?

I am sure her supporters would say Clinton can help win swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, but she can also bring a heavy turnout of voters who do not like her.

Also, giving Clinton a VP slot would ensure constant gossip on her attempts to grab the Presidency in 2012, depending if she can dissaude Obama from running for re-election. Obama's administratin would be mired with his staff and Clinton's over policy agendas and what not.

Transformers T-Shirt deemed a security risk

A man wearing a T-shirt depicting a cartoon character holding a gun was stopped from boarding a flight by the security at Heathrow's Terminal 5.

Brad Jayakody, from Bayswater, central London, said he was "stumped" at the objection to his Transformers T-shirt.

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I guess we need to be a bit more blunt and just wear a t-shirt that just says "GUN". Or maybe "GUNSMOKE" is offensive?

So if a t-shirt with a pictured gun is a "security risk" that's pretty much a misdirected use of resources.

Example of an narrow-minded voter

Comment posted by a fellow NJ citizen:

Libratarians should scare people.

Thay want little or no Governement or taxes.

Well folks, like it or not , we need Government and have to pay taxes to support that Government and the infrastructure the Government provides.

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Either the person sounds like a Democrat or some Republican trying to scare folks about Libertarians.

Clinton campaign complains about Michigan deal

The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee reinstated all of Florida and Michigan's delegates to its party convention, with each getting a half-vote.

For Florida: Clinton gets 105 pledged delegates, Obama gets 67. Total of 87 votes.

For Michigan: Clinton gets 69 delegates, Obama gets 59. Total of 63 votes.

However, the Clinton campaign is fighting the Michigan deal. They have argued that since Obama's name on the state ballot was not there, then Clinton would get 69 delegates, but the 59 delegates would be "uncommitted," thereby letting them choose which candidate to support. Harold Ickes demanded that the delegates be allocated in a manner that "fairly reflects" the votes cast.

Of course, they fail to mention that Obama supporters were urged to vote on "Uncommitted" during the primary election in order to show support for him.

Second, regardless of the Michigan allocation, Obama would still lead in delegates.

Stephanie Tubbs-Jones answers her own rhetorical question

From the huffington post:

"My name is Stephanie Tubbs Jones and I am the congresswoman from the great state of Ohio, and on behalf of the Clinton campaign, we don't expect that the Obama campaign could be so generous to us to give us these 19 delegates. It is in fact more generous, and more appropriate, that all the votes be counted as they were cast. And if the votes are counted as they were cast, Senator Clinton will get much more than the Obama campaign is saying will be generous."

Within minutes the congresswoman and the press had dispersed. But a heated Davis was still strolling the halls of the Marriot Hotel. Talking to a separate reporter, he acknowledged that even if Clinton were to get everything she wanted, the likelihood remained that she would still lose the nomination.

"They can give us the full 38 delegates [the net gain of counting 100 percent of the vote] and still win," he said. "So why won't they."

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Because Florida and Michigan were being punished for holding their primaries early. A 50 percent penalty is certainly justified. Of course, if Clinton was leading, then their campaign wouldn't even complain about it.

Don't talk about voter disenfranchisement. That's just an excuse to make up for the mistakes the Clinton campaign has made over the past several months.

New Jersey Republican: US Senate - Update

The Republican Senate primary in New Jersey will be held on Tuesday, June 3. We have three candidates vying for the nomination.

Dick Zimmer is a reserved former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the state Legislature. He currently practices law and is a federal lobbyist.

Murray Sabrin is a former Libertarian who bills himself as a maverick Republican with experience in running statewide elections. The Ramapo College of New Jersey professor previously ran unsuccessfully to become governor and a U.S. senator.

Joseph Pennacchio presents himself as "Jersey Joe," a sort of regular guy who once shined shoes at Coney Island and now wants to trade his seat in the state Senate for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

The winner will likely face Democratic incumbent Frank Lautenberg in November.

NYT - G.O.P. candidates in NJ seek name recognition

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Some polls show Mr. Zimmer as the possible front-runner though Sabrin disputes that.

Over the weekend, Pennacchio campaign signs appeared around the Parisppany-Morristown area. The few Sabrin signs that I saw were gone. A bit of last-minute spending by the dentist to swap Republican primary voters?

The former Libertarian has won past Senate debates with the other two candidates, but it is unsure whether these will translate into votes for Sabrin.

Also, candidates are also waiting for the endorsement of former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, supposedly the leader of the conservative wing of the NJ Republican Party. Both Pennacchio and Sabrin have made statements saying that Lonegan will endorse them before tomorrow's election.